Sometimes I think I have perfected the art of wiping my eyes so I don't smudge my eye makeup.
You see, this is a photo of me earlier today, after crying off and on for an hour or two.
Depression doesn't always look the way we think it does.
I learned a long time ago that my personal appearance was something I could control.
I couldn't control my environment, or the chaos that rages inside of me daily, but I could put on a nice outfit and command respect.
And people don't tend to mess with a woman in red lipstick.
The death of Robin Williams hit me hard. I didn't love Robin Williams the way I loved Johnny Cash or Roger Ebert. Sometimes I'll hear a song and wonder what it would sound like if Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin teamed up on a cover and I'll watch a movie and wish I could read a Great Movies essay. I grieve for the art we lost in this world.
I liked Robin Williams, I have enjoyed his work as an actor and as a comedian. But my visceral reaction to his death was not about my relationship to him as an artist. It was one dark soul, staring into another. Glimpsing a hopeless future.
If you listen to people who struggle with mental illness a pattern emerges. They try different medications, different therapists. There are bad reactions, interactions with other medications.
I took a medication that harmed my breastfed baby while robbing me of the emotions that made me feel human. I worked with a therapist that didn't ask me a single question about my childhood, my family history, nothing. She just tried to tell me how to organize my bathroom and meditate. I think about treatment and all I see is thousands of dollars poured into medications and supplements and therapists, and none of it might even work.
Robin Williams was a successful man, presumably with the financial means and autonomy to pursue help. He was in treatment. And it wasn't enough to keep him from hanging himself.
That is where my terror lies. The utter futility of trying to fix my mental health...it seems trading one abyss for another. But I know I have to do it.
My friend asked me today if I was having suicidal thoughts. I have truthfully never wanted to kill myself. But I have wanted to die. I have been consumed by knowing that I am what I think of as a "garbage person." No accomplishment, not the love of my husband and children, no friends, can convince me that I am a worthwhile human. It's not a self-esteem issue. Oddly enough, I have a healthy body image, I am generally a confident person. It's not a part of me at all, it's a black dog that follows me around, that digs in my garbage and strews it about, that chews up all the goodness in my life when I am not looking.
I think of the fact that, for the rest of my life I'll be feigning normal...for the rest of my life I will use my good days to try and catch up with the mess I made during the bad. That I might never accomplish what I want to accomplish, live the way I want to live...if I can't muzzle and leash this immortal dog.
I've contemplated writing this for a while. And I haven't wanted to. But today, it felt right. Today I know I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am having trouble ending this...almost as much trouble as I had beginning it. I wrote this piece a thousand times in my head this morning, but I waited until the clouds had somewhat cleared before putting down my words.
I feel clumsy and silly. There IS no dog. There's nothing but my silly, lazy mind and body, choosing ice cream and my bed instead of spinach and dishwashing. So once again, I can dismiss the crushing pain of the morning and tell myself its just my mind playing tricks on me. I just need to eat better, exercise. I just need to make better choices.
Except that I have had this conversation with myself 1,000 times, and it's not getting better. How many friendships will be strained and broken under the weight of this formless, indistinct pain? How many times will my children be hurt by my need to lay alone in the darkness, unable to cook their dinners, too tired to play a game, too distracted to listen? How many times will my husband be forced to carry my weight as well as his own?
The evidence is all around me. And it's not going away. It's not getting better on it's own. Better choices would help, but it's impossible to make those choices when your mind and body rage against your better judgement. I need a remedy. And I won't stop till I find it.